Cosmetics retailer Lush has migrated its global ecommerce platform onto Google Cloud, part of a wider initiative to embrace open source software across the organisation.
Based in Poole, Lush serves customers in 51 countries, with 900 bricks and mortar stores and an online presence.
The company had previously relied on a a platform as a service content management system from Acquia – running on Amazon Web Service cloud – to support its online sales. Late last year, a decision was made to switch providers as its contract with Acquia neared its end, shifting 17 international websites onto Google’s infrastructure as a service platform.
The migration was surprisingly swift, with the entire project completed in less than a month – and just days before the peak Boxing Day trading period for the business.
"All in all we had a 22-day migration window in which we actually did the project," says Ryan Kerry, Global Head of Engineering and Technology, adding that three regions – APAC, Europe and South America – were all brought online over four days.
"It was a pretty fast-paced decision," adds chief digital officer Jack Constantine, whose parents founded the 21-year-old company. "We decided on a Friday and started migrating on a Monday."
Lush’s team had been unhappy with the level of service it had with the Acquia deployment, viewed as a 'black box' which offered little control of its core systems and was at odds with a desire to move its applications to a more modern application architecture.
"We were only able to see what Acquia set up and configured," Kerry says. "We didn't actually know how the infrastructure was set up underneath it and what we wanted to do was to start to align our architecture to our vision, which is more around service orientated architectures, with microservices to provide that scalability into our architecture."
Lush has now completed the migration, with its open source ecommerce system hosted on Google Compute Engine. Using virtual machines is only a temporary measure, however, as the team plans to move to Google’s open source Kubernetes-based Container Engine, as part of a wider adoption of microservices and containers for all of its internal applications.
"It [moving to Google Cloud Engine] was the only way we could get lift and shift to be as quick as possible," Kerry says. "We are moving, and a lot of our internal projects are built on Container Engine, but for us to do that would have required a lot more work, for which we didn't have time."
Open source ethos
The move is part of a wider strategy at Lush to adopt open source software across the organisation and reinvest savings in in-house tech staff.
"Licensed software is dying – there is no doubt about it. [Adopting open source] is not even a decision, it is just like ‘this is the world now, how do you deal with it’," says Constantine.
The company has relied on various proprietary software providers across its operations – including Sage finance and an ERP system from QAD – but plans to create its own tools in future.
"A lot of that stuff comes with sizeable maintenance contracts and ongoing upgrades, costs and fees," says Kerry.
"What we are trying to do is look at how we can develop some of that stuff internally. We have the ability through the infrastructure as a service that Google provides us with to be able to incorporate all of our ecosystem together. That is what containers and Kubernetes and other features like that are enabling us to do now going forward.
"So we are building that internal engineering effort, bringing it all in-house and then we can start to develop it."
Choosing Google Cloud
Kerry says that the openness of Google’s cloud – the vendor has released tools like Hadoop and Kubernetes to open source communities in the past – was one of the key reasons for choosing the platform.
Another is Google’s pledge to use 100 percent renewable energy in its data centres – an area of importance to Lush.
"[We want to align] the digital business with what we do in the rest of the business as well," Kerry says. "Google making that commitment is a massive factor [in the choice of cloud provider]. The amount of renewable energy is three times the amount of the next three competitors added together."
However, there were technical reasons for choosing Google Cloud over AWS too.
"Google's network is considerably faster," he adds.
"We did some load-testing and other tests against both systems, we found that Google's network is a lot quicker so we could consolidate five data centres down to three.
"So most of it was a cost saving exercise, we halved our run rate of what we were paying originally by moving to Google Cloud Platform as well. What that does is also allows us a lot of different options to then play with in regards to innovating faster and being able to reinvest into more research and development projects and drive the business forward."
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